Augusta J. Evans
Part 6 out of 11
"Yes; a great trust in God's wisdom and mercy has stolen into my
heart. I no longer look despondingly into my future."
"Why? Because you fancy that future will be very short and painless?
Ah, Clara, is this trust, when the end comes and there is no more
work to do?"
"You are mistaken; I do not see Death beckoning me home. Oh, I have
not earned a home yet! I look forward to years of labor, profit, and
peace. To-day I found some lines in the morning paper. Nay, don't
curl your lips with a sneer at what you call 'newspaper poetry.'
Listen to the words that came like a message from the spirit-land to
my murmuring heart." Her voice was low and unsteady, as she read:
"'Two hands upon the breast, and labor's done;
Two pale feet crossed in rest, the race is won.
Two eyes with coin-weights shut, all tears cease;
Two lips where grief is mute, and wrath at peace.
So pray we oftentimes, mourning our lot;
God, in his kindness, answereth not!'"
"Such, Beulah, I felt had been my unvoiced prayer; but now!"
"'Two hands to work addressed; aye, for his praise,
Two feet that never rest; walking his ways;
Two eyes that look above, still through all tears;
Two lips that breathe but love; never more fears.
SO WE CRY AFTERWARD, LOW AT OUR KNEES.
PARDON THOSE ERRING CRIES! FATHER, HEAR THESE!"
"Oh Beulah, such is now my prayer."
As Beulah stood near the lamp, strange shadows fell on her brow;
shadows from the long, curling lashes. After a brief silence, she
"Are your prayers answered, Clara? Does God hear you?"
"Yes; oh, yes!" "Wherefore?"
"Because Christ died!"
"Is your faith in Christ so firm? Does it never waver?"
"Never; even in my most desponding moments."
Beulah looked at her keenly; and asked, with something like a
"Did it never occur to you to doubt the plan of redemption, as
taught by divines, as laid down in the New Testament?"
"No, never. I want to die before such a doubt occurs to me. Oh, what
would my life be without that plan? What would a fallen, sin-cursed
world be without a Jesus?"
"But why curse a race in order to necessitate a Saviour?"
Clara looked in astonishment at the pale, fixed features before her.
A frightened expression came over her own countenance, a look of
shuddering horror; and, putting up her wasted hands, as if to ward
off some grim phantom, she cried:
"Oh, Beulah! what is this? You are not an infidel?"
Her companion was silent a moment; then said emphatically:
"Dr. Hartwell does not believe the religion you hold so dear."
Clara covered her face with her hands, and answered brokenly:
"Beulah, I have envied you, because I fancied that your superior
intellect won you the love which I was weak enough to expect and
need. But if it has brought you both to doubt the Bible, I thank God
that the fatal gift was withheld from me. Have your books and
studies brought you to this? Beulah! Beulah! throw them into the
fire, and come back to trust in Christ."
She held out her hands imploringly; but, with a singularly cold
smile, her friend replied:
"You must go to sleep. Your fever is rising. Don't talk any more to-
night; I will not hear you."
An hour after Clara slept soundly, and Beulah sat in her own room
bending over a book. Midnight study had long since become an
habitual thing; nay, two and three o'clock frequently found her
beside the waning lamp. Was it any marvel that, as Dr. Hartwell
expressed it, she "looked wretched." From her earliest childhood she
had been possessed by an active spirit of inquiry which constantly
impelled her to investigate, and as far as possible to explain, the
mysteries which surrounded, her on every side. With her growth grew
this haunting spirit, which asked continually: "What am I? Whence
did I come? And whither am I bound? What is life? What is death? Am
I my own mistress, or am I but a tool in the hands of my Maker? What
constitutes the difference between my mind and my body? Is there any
difference? If spirit must needs have body to incase it, and body
must have a spirit to animate it, may they not be identical? With
these primeval foundation questions began her speculative career. In
the solitude of her own soul she struggled bravely and earnestly to
answer those "dread questions, which, like swords of flaming fire,
tokens of imprisonment, encompass man on earth." Of course mystery
triumphed. Panting for the truth, she pored over her Bible,
supposing that here, at least, all clouds would melt away; but here,
too, some inexplicable passages confronted her. Physically, morally,
and mentally she found the world warring. To reconcile these
antagonisms with the conditions and requirements of Holy Writ, she
now most faithfully set to work. Ah, proudly aspiring soul! How many
earnest thinkers had essayed the same mighty task, and died under
the intolerable burden? Unluckily for her, there was no one to
direct or assist her. She scrupulously endeavored to conceal her
doubts and questions from her guardian. Poor child? she fancied she
concealed them so effectually from his knowledge; while he silently
noted the march of skepticism in her nature. There were dim,
puzzling passages of Scripture which she studied on her knees; now
trying to comprehend them, and now beseeching the Source of all
knowledge to enlighten her. But, as has happened to numberless
others, there was seemingly no assistance given. The clouds grew
denser and darker, and, like the "cry of strong swimmers in their
agony," her prayers had gone up to the Throne of Grace. Sometimes
she was tempted to go to the minister of the church where she sat
Sunday after Sunday, and beg him to explain the mysteries to her.
But the pompous austerity of his manners repelled her whenever she
thought of broaching the subject, and gradually she saw that she
must work out her own problems. Thus, from week to week and month to
month, she toiled on, with a slowly dying faith, constantly
clambering over obstacles which seemed to stand between her trust
and revelation. It was no longer study for the sake of erudition;
these riddles involved all that she prized in Time and Eternity, and
she grasped books of every description with the eagerness of a
famishing nature. What dire chance threw into her hands such works
as Emerson's, Carlyle's, and Goethe's? Like the waves of the clear,
sunny sea, they only increased her thirst to madness. Her burning
lips were ever at these fountains; and, in her reckless eagerness,
she plunged into the gulf of German speculation. Here she believed
that she had indeed found the "true processes," and, with renewed
zest, continued the work of questioning. At this stage of the
conflict the pestilential scourge was laid upon the city, and she
paused from her metaphysical toil to close glazed eyes and shroud
soulless clay. In the awful hush of those hours of watching she
looked calmly for some solution, and longed for the unquestioning
faith of early years. But these influences passed without aiding her
in the least, and, with rekindled ardor, she went back to her false
prophets. In addition, ethnology beckoned her on to conclusions
apparently antagonistic to the revealed system, and the stony face
of geology seemed radiant with characters of light, which she might
decipher and find some security in. From Dr. Asbury's extensive
collection she snatched treatise after treatise. The sages of
geology talked of the pre-Adamic eras, and of man's ending the
slowly forged chain, of which the radiata form the lowest link; and
then she was told that in those pre-Adamic ages paleontologists find
no trace whatever of that golden time when the vast animal creation
lived in harmony and bloodshed was unknown; ergo, man's fall in Eden
had no agency in bringing death into the world; ergo, that chapter
in Genesis need puzzle her no more.
Finally, she learned that she was the crowning intelligence in the
vast progression; that she would ultimately become part of Deity.
"The long ascending line, from dead matter to man, had been a
progress Godward, and the next advance would unite creation and
Creator in one person." With all her aspirations she had never
dreamed of such a future as was here promised her. To-night she was
closely following that most anomalous of all guides, "Herr
Teufelsdrockh." Urged on by the same "unrest," she was stumbling
along dim, devious paths, while from every side whispers came to
her: "Nature is one: she is your mother, and divine: she is God! The
'living garment of God.'" Through the "everlasting No," and the
"everlasting Yea," she groped her way, darkly, tremblingly, waiting
for the day-star of Truth to dawn; but, at last, when she fancied
she saw the first rays silvering the night, and looked up hopefully,
it proved one of many ignes-fatui which had flashed across her path,
and she saw that it was Goethe, uplifted as the prophet of the
genuine religion. The book fell from her nerveless fingers; she
closed her eyes, and groaned. It was all "confusion, worse
confounded." She could not for her life have told what she believed,
much less what she did not believe. The landmarks of earlier years
were swept away; the beacon light of Calvary had sunk below her
horizon. A howling chaos seemed about to ingulf her. At that moment
she would gladly have sought assistance from her guardian; but how
could she approach him after their last interview? The friendly face
and cordial kindness of Dr. Asbury flashed upon her memory, and she
resolved to confide her doubts and difficulties to him, hoping to
obtain from his clear and matured judgment some clew which might
enable her to emerge from the labyrinth that involved her. She knelt
and tried to pray. To what did she, on bended knees, send up
passionate supplications? To nature? to heroes? These were the new
deities. She could not pray; all grew dark; she pressed her hands to
her throbbing brain, striving to clear away the mists. "Sartor" had
effectually blindfolded her, and she threw herself down to sleep
with a shivering dread, as of a young child separated from its
mother, and wailing in some starless desert.
It was Christmas Eve--cold, cloudy, and damp. The store windows were
gay with every conceivable and inconceivable device for attracting
attention. Parents, nurses, and porters hurried along with
mysterious looking bundles and important countenances. Crowds of
curious, merry children thronged the sidewalks; here a thinly clad,
meager boy, looked, with longing eyes and empty pockets, at pyramids
of fruit and sweetmeats; and there a richly dressed group chattered
like blackbirds, and occasionally fired a pack of crackers, to the
infinite dismay of horses and drivers. Little chaps just out of
frocks rushed about, with their round, rosy faces hid under
grotesque masks; and shouts of laughter, and the squeak of penny
trumpets, and mutter of miniature drums swelled to a continuous din,
which would have been quite respectable even on the plain of Shinar.
The annual jubilee had come, and young and old seemed determined to
celebrate it with due zeal. From her window Beulah looked down on
the merry groups, and involuntarily contrasted the bustling, crowded
streets with the silence and desolation which had reigned over the
same thoroughfares only a few months before. One brief year ago
childish voices prattled of Santa Claus and gift stockings, and
little feet pattered along these same pavements, with tiny hands
full of toys. Fond parents, too, had gone eagerly in and out of
these gay shops, hunting presents for their darlings. Where were
they? children and parents? Ah! a cold, silent band of sleepers in
yonder necropolis, where solemn cedars were chanting an everlasting
dirge. Death's harvest time was in all seasons; when would her own
throbbing pulses be stilled and her questioning tones hushed? Might
not the summons be on that very wintry blast which rushed over her
hot brow? And if it should be so? Beulah pressed her face closer to
the window, and thought it was too inconceivable that she also
should die. She knew it was the common birthright, the one
unchanging heritage of all humanity; yet long vistas of life opened
before her, and though, like a pall, the shadow of the tomb hung
over the end, it was very distant, very dim.
"What makes you look so solemn?" asked Clara, who had been busily
engaged in dressing a doll for one of Mrs. Hoyt's children.
"Because I feel solemn, I suppose."
Clara came up and, passing her arm round Beulah's shoulder, gazed
down into the noisy street. She still wore mourning, and the
alabaster fairness of her complexion contrasted vividly with the
black bombazine dress. Though thin and pale, there was an
indescribable expression of peace on the sweet face; a calm, clear
light of contentment in the mild, brown eyes. The holy serenity of
the countenance was rendered more apparent by the restless, stormy
visage of her companion. Every passing cloud of perplexed thought
cast its shadow over Beulah's face, and on this occasion she looked
more than usually grave.
"Ah, how merry I used to be on Christmas Eve! Indeed, I can remember
having been half wild with excitement. Yet now it all seems like a
flitting dream." Clara spoke musingly, yet without sadness.
"Time has laid his wonder-working touch upon you," answered Beulah.
"How is it, Beulah, that you never speak of your childhood?"
"Because it was
"All dark and barren as a rainy sea."
"But you never talk about your parents?"
"I love my father's memory. Ah! it is enshrined in my heart's
holiest sanctuary. He was a noble, loving man, and my affection for
him bordered on idolatry."
"And your mother?"
"I knew little of her. She died before I was old enough to remember
much about her."
Her face was full of bitter recollections; her eyes seemed wandering
through some storehouse of sorrows. Clara feared her friend, much as
she loved her, and since the partial discovery of her skepticism she
had rather shunned her society. Now she watched the heavy brow and
deep, piercing eyes uneasily, and, gently withdrawing her arm, she
glided out of the room. The tide of life still swelled through the
streets, and, forcibly casting the load of painful reminiscences
from her, Beulah kept her eyes on the merry faces, and listened to
the gay, careless prattle of the excited children. The stately
rustle of brocaded silk caused her to look up, and Cornelia Graham
greeted her with:
"I have come to take you home with me for the holidays."
"I can't go."
"Why not? You cling to this dark garret of yours as if it possessed
all the charms of Vaucluse."
"Diogenes loved his tub, you know," said Beulah quietly.
"An analogous case, truly. But, jesting aside, you must come,
Beulah. Eugene expects you; so do my parents; and, above all, I want
you. Come." Cornelia laid her hand on the girl's shoulders as she
"You have been ill again," said Beulah, examining the sallow face.
"Not ill, but I shall be soon, I know. One of my old attacks is
coming on; I feel it; and Beulah, to be honest, which I can with you
(without casting pearls before swine), that very circumstance makes
me want you. I dined out to-day, and have just left the fashionable
crowd to come and ask you to spend the holidays with me. The house
will be gay. Antoinette intends to have a set of tableaux; but it is
probable I shall be confined to my room. Will you give your time to
a cross invalid, for such I certainly am? I would be stretched upon
St. Lawrence's gridiron before I could be brought to say as much to
anybody else. I am not accustomed to ask favors, Beulah; it has been
my habit to grant them. Nevertheless, I want you, and am not too
proud to come after you. Will you come?"
"Yes, if I may remain with you altogether."
"Thank you. Come, get ready, quick! Give me a fan." Sinking into a
chair, she wiped away the cold drops which had collected about her
"Cornelia, I have only one day's leisure. School begins again day
"Well, well; one day, then. Be quick!"
In a few moments Beulah was ready; and, after informing Clara and
Mrs. Hoyt of her intended absence, the two entered Mr. Graham's
elegant carriage. The gas was now lighted, and the spirited horses
dashed along through streets brilliantly illuminated and thronged
with happy people.
"What a Babel! About equal to Constantinople, and its dog-
orchestra," muttered Cornelia, as the driver paused to allow one of
the military companies to pass. The martial music, together with the
hubbub which otherwise prevailed, alarmed the horses, and they
plunged violently. The driver endeavored to back out into an alley;
but, in the attempt, the carriage was whirled round, the coachman
jerked over the dashboard into the gutter, and the frightened
animals dashed at furious speed down the main street. Luckily the
top was thrown back, making the carriage open, and, springing
forward to the post so unceremoniously vacated by the driver, Beulah
snatched the reins, which were just within her reach. Curb the
rushing horses she did not hope to do; but, by cautious energy,
succeeded in turning them sufficiently aside to avoid coming in
collision with several other carriages. The street was full of
vehicles, and though, as may well be imagined, there was every
effort made to give the track, the carriage rushed against the
bright yellow wheels of a light buggy in which two young men were
trying to manage a fast trotter. There was a terrible smash of
wheels, the young gentlemen were suddenly landed in the mud, and
their emancipated steed galloped on, with the wreck of the buggy at
his heels. Men, women, and children gathered on the corners to
witness the denouement. Drays, carts, and wagons were seized with a
simultaneous stampede, which soon cleared the middle of the street,
and, uninjured by the collision, our carriage flew on. Cornelia sat
on the back seat, ghastly pale and motionless, expecting every
minute to be hurled out, while Beulah stood up in front, reins in
hand, trying to guide the maddened horses. Her bonnet fell off; the
motion loosened her comb, and down came her long, heavy hair in
black, blinding folds. She shook it all back from her face, and soon
saw that this reckless game of dodging vehicles could not last much
longer. Straight ahead, at the end of the street, was the wharf,
crowded with cotton bales, barrels, and a variety of freight; just
beyond was the river. A number of gentlemen stood on a neighboring
corner, and with one impulse they rushed forward with extended arms.
On sprang the horses almost upon them; eager hands grasped at the
"Stand back-all of you! You might as well catch at the winds!"
shouted Beulah, and, with one last effort, she threw, her whole
weight on the reins and turned the horses into a cross street. The
wheels struck the curbstone, the carriage tilted, rocked, fell back
again, and on they went for three squares more, when the horses
stopped short before the livery stable where they were kept.
Embossed with foam, and panting like stags at bay, they were seized
by a dozen hands.
"By all the gods of Greece! you have had a flying trip of it!" cried
Dr. Asbury, with one foot on the carriage step and both hands
extended, while his gray hair hung in confusion about his face. He
had followed them for at least half a dozen blocks, and was pale
"See about Cornelia," said Beulah, seating herself for the first
time and twisting up the veil of hair which swept round her form.
"Cornelia has fainted! Halloo, there! some water! quick!" said the
doctor, stepping into the carriage and attempting to lift the
motionless figure. But Cornelia opened her eyes, and answered
"No! carry me home! Dr. Asbury, take me home!"
The brilliant eyes closed, a sort of spasm distorted her features,
and she sank back once more, rigid and seemingly lifeless. Dr.
Asbury took the reins firmly in his hands, seated himself, and,
speaking gently to the trembling horses, started homeward. They
plunged violently at first, but he used the whip unsparingly, and in
a few moments they trotted briskly along. Mrs. Graham and her niece
had not yet reached home, but Mr. Graham met the carriage at the
door, with considerable agitation and alarm in his usually
phlegmatic countenance. As Cornelia's colorless face met his view,
he threw up his hands, staggered back, and exclaimed:
"My God! is she dead? I knew it would end this way some day!"
"Nonsense, Graham! She is frightened out of her wits--that is all.
These Yankee horses of yours have been playing the very deuce. Clear
the way there, all of you!"
Lifting Cornelia in his strong arms, Dr. Asbury carried her up to
her own room and placed her on a sofa. Having known her from
childhood, and treated her so often in similar attacks, he
immediately administered some medicine, and ere long had the
satisfaction of seeing the rigid aspect leave her face. She sat up,
and, without a word, began to take off her kid gloves, which fitted
tightly. Suddenly looking up at her father, who was anxiously
regarding her, she said abruptly:
"There are no more like her. She kept me from making a simpleton of
"Whom do you mean, my dear?"
"Whom? whom? Why, Beulah Benton, of course! Where is she? Come out
of that corner, you quaint, solemn statue!" She held out her hand,
and a warm, glad smile broke over her pallid face as Beulah
"You certainly created a very decided sensation. Beulah made quite a
passable Medea, with her inky hair trailing over the back of the
seat, and her little hands grasping the reins with desperate energy.
By Phoebus! you turned that corner at the bank like an electric
bolt. Shake hands, Beulah! After this you will do in any emergency."
The doctor looked at her with an expression of paternal pride and
"I feel very grateful to you," began Mr. Graham; but Beulah cut
short his acknowledgments by saying hastily:
"Sir, I did nothing at all; Dr. Asbury is resolved to make a heroine
of me, that is all. You owe me nothing."
At this moment the coachman limped into the room, with garments
dabbled with mud, and inquired anxiously whether the young ladies
"No, you son of Pluto; not hurt at all, thanks to your careful
driving," answered the doctor, putting his hands in his pockets and
eying the discomfited coachman humorously.
"Were you hurt by your fall?" asked Beulah.
"Considerable bumped and thumped, but not much hurt, thank you,
miss. I was awfully scared when I rose out of that choking gutter,
and saw you standing up, and the horses flying like ole Satan
himself was after them. I am marvelous glad nothing was hurt. And
now, master, sir, I want you to go to the mayor and have this 'ere
firecracker business stopped. A parcel of rascally boys set a match
to a whole pack and flung 'em right under Andrew Jackson's feet! Of
course I couldn't manage him after that. I 'clare to gracious! it's
a sin and a shame the way the boys in this town do carry on
Christmas times and, indeed, every other time!" Wilson hobbled out,
"Beulah, you must come and spend Christmas at my house. The girls
and my wife were talking about it to-day, and concluded to send the
carriage for you early in the morning." The doctor drew on his
gloves as he spoke.
"They may spare themselves the trouble, sir; she spends it with me,"
"With you! After such a frolic as you two indulged in this evening,
you ought not to be trusted together. If I had not been so anxious
about you I could have laughed heartily at the doleful countenances
of those two young gents, as they picked themselves up out of the
mud. Such rueful plight as their lemon-colored gloves were in! I
will send Hartwell to see you to-morrow, Cornelia. A merry Christmas
to you all, in spite of your Mazeppa episode." His good-humored
"There comes Antoinette ejaculating up the steps. Father, tell her I
do not want to see her, or anybody else. Don't let her come in
here!" cried Cornelia, with a nervous start, as voices were heard in
Mr. Graham, who felt a certain awe of his willful child,
notwithstanding his equable temper, immediately withdrew. His wife
hastened into the room, and, with trembling lips touched her
daughter's cheek and brow, exclaiming:
"Oh, my child, what a narrow escape! It is horrible to think of--
"Not at all, mother, seeing that nothing was hurt in the least. I
was sick, any way, as I told you. Don't you see Beulah sitting
Mrs. Graham welcomed her guest cordially.
"You have a great deal of presence of mind, I believe, Miss Beulah?
You are fortunate."
"I thanked my stars that Antoinette was not in the carriage; for
most certainly she would have made matters worse, by screaming like
an idiot and jumping out. Beulah taught me common sense," answered
Cornelia, unclasping a bracelet and tossing a handful of jewelry
across the room to her dressing table.
"You underrate yourself, my dear," said her mother, a little
"Not at all. Humility, genuine or feigned, is not one of our family
traits. Mother, will you send up tea for us? We want a quiet time;
at least, I do, and Beulah will stay with me."
"But, my love, it is selfish to exclude the balance of the family.
Why not come down to the sitting room, where we can all be
together?" pleaded the mother.
"Because I prefer staying just where I am. Beulah, put down that
window, will you? Mary must think that I have been converted into a
Polar bear; and, mother, have some coal brought up. If there is any
truth in the metempsychosis of the Orient, I certainly was a palm
tree or a rhinoceros in the last stage of my existence." She
shivered, and wrapped a heavy shawl up to her very chin.
"May I come in?" asked Eugene, at the door.
"No; go and sing duets with Netta, and amuse yourself downstairs,"
said she shortly, while a frown darkened her face.
Nevertheless he came in, shook hands with Beulah, and, leaning over
the back of Cornelia's chair, asked tenderly:
"How is my sister? I heard on the street that you were injured."
"Oh, I suppose the whole city will be bemoaning my tragic fate. I am
not at all hurt, Eugene."
"You have had one of those attacks, though; I see from your face.
Has it passed off entirely?"
"No; and I want to be quiet. Beulah is going to read me to sleep
after a while. You may go down now."
"Beulah, you will be with us to-morrow, I suppose?"
"I am sorry I am obliged to dine out; I shall be at home, however,
most of the day. I called the other evening, but you were not at
"Yes; I was sorry I did not see you," said Beulah, looking steadily
at his flushed face and sparkling eyes.
"Dine out, Eugene! For what, I should like to know?" cried Cornelia,
raising herself in her chair and fixing her eyes impatiently upon
him. "Henderson and Milbank are both here, you know, and I could not
refuse to join them in a Christmas dinner."
"Then why did you not invite them to dine at your own house?" Her
voice was angry; her glance searching.
"The party was made up before I knew anything about it. They will
all be here in the evening."
"I doubt it!" said she sneeringly. The flush deepened on his cheek
and he bit his lip; then, turning suddenly to Beulah, he said, as he
suffered his eyes to wander over her plain, fawn-colored merino
"You have not yet heard Netta sing, I believe!"
"Where is she, Cornelia?"
"I have no idea."
"I hope my sister will be well enough to take part in the tableaux
to-morrow evening." Taking her beautifully molded hand, he looked at
her anxiously. Her piercing, black eyes were riveted on his
countenance, as she answered:
"I don't know, Eugene; I have long since abandoned the hope of ever
being well again. Perhaps I may be able to get down to the parlors.
There is Antoinette in the passage. Good-night." She motioned him
He kissed her tenderly, shook hands a second time with Beulah, and
left the room. Cornelia bowed her head on her palms; and, though her
features were concealed, Beulah thought she moaned, as if in pain.
"Cornelia, are you ill again? What can I do for you?"
The feeble woman lifted her haggard face, and answered:
"What can you do? That remains to be seen. Something must be done.
Beulah, I may die at any hour, and you must save him."
"What do you mean?" Beulah's heart throbbed painfully as she asked
this simple question.
"You know very well what I mean! Oh, Beulah! Beulah! it bows my
proud spirit into the dust!" Again she averted her head; there was a
short silence. Beulah leaned her face on her hand, and then Cornelia
"Did you detect it when he first came home?"
"Oh, it is like a hideous nightmare! I cannot realize that Eugene,
so noble, so pure, so refined, could ever have gone to the excesses
he has been guilty of. He left home all that he should be; but five
years abroad have strangely changed him. My parents will not see it;
my mother says 'All young men are wild at first'; and my father
shuts his eyes to his altered habits. Eugene constantly drinks too
much. I have never seen him intoxicated. I don't know that he has
been since he joined us in Italy; but I dread continually lest his
miserable associates lead him further astray. I had hoped that, in
leaving his companions at the university, he had left temptation
too; but the associates he has found here are even worse. I hope I
shall be quiet in my grave before I see him drunk. It would kill me,
I verily believe, to know that he had so utterly degraded himself."
She shaded her face with her hands, and Beulah replied hastily:
"He surely cannot fall so low! Eugene will never reel home, an
unconscious drunkard! Oh, no, it is impossible! impossible! The
stars in heaven will fall first!"
"Do you believe what you say?"
"I hope it; and hope engenders faith," answered Beulah.
A bitter smile curled Cornelia's lips, and, sinking back in her
chair, she continued:
"Where excessive drinking is not considered a disgrace, young men
indulge without a thought of the consequences. Instead of excluding
them from genteel circles, their dissipation is smoothed over, or
unnoticed; and it has become so prevalent in this city that of all
the gentlemen whom I meet in so-called fashionable society, there
are very few who abstain from the wine-cup. I have seen them at
parties, staggering through a quadrille, or talking the most
disgusting nonsense to girls, who have long since ceased to regard
dissipation as a stigma upon the names and characters of their
friends. I tell you the dissipation of the young men here is
sickening to think of. Since I came home I have been constantly
reminded of it; and oh, Eugene is following in their disgraceful
steps! Beulah, if the wives, and mothers, and sisters did their
duty, all this might be remedied. If they carefully and constantly
strove to shield their sons and brothers from temptation they might
preserve them from the fatal habit, which, once confirmed, it is
almost impossible to eradicate. But alas! they smile as sweetly upon
the reckless, intoxicated beaux as if they were what men should be.
I fancied that I could readily redeem Eugene from his dangerous
lapses, but my efforts are rendered useless by the temptations which
assail him from every quarter. He shuns me; hourly the barriers
between us strengthen. Beulah, I look to you. He loves you, and your
influence might prevail, if properly directed. You must save him!
"I have not the influence you ascribe to me," answered Beulah.
"Do not say so! do not say so! Are you not to be his wife one day?"
She stood up, and heavy drops glistened on her pale forehead.
"His wife! Cornelia Graham, are you mad?" cried Beulah, lifting her
head proudly, and eying her companion with unfeigned astonishment,
while her eyes burned ominously.
"He told me that he expected to marry you; that it had always been a
settled thing. Beulah, you have not broken the engagement--surely
you have not?" She grasped Beulah's arm convulsively.
"No positive engagement ever existed. While we were children we
often spoke of our future as one, but of late neither of us has
alluded to the subject. We are only friends, linked by memories of
early years. Nay, since his return, we have almost become
"Then I have been miserably deceived. Not two months since, he told
me that he looked upon you as his future wife. What has alienated
you? Beulah Benton, do you not love him?"
"Love him! No!"
"You loved him once--hush! don't deny it! I know that you did. You
loved him during his absence, and you must love him still. Beulah,
you do love him!"
"I have a true sisterly affection for him; but as for the love which
you allude to, I tell you, Cornelia, I have not one particle!"
"Then he is lost!" Sinking back in her chair, Cornelia groaned
"Why Eugene should have made such an impression on your mind, I
cannot conjecture. He has grown perfectly indifferent to me; and
even if he had not, we could never be more than friends. Boyish
fancies have all passed away. He is a man now--still my friend, I
believe; but no longer what he once was to me. Cornelia, I, too, see
his growing tendency to dissipation, with a degree of painful
apprehension which I do not hesitate to avow. Though cordial enough
when we meet, I know and feel that he carefully avoids me.
Consequently, I have no opportunity to exert what little influence I
may possess. I looked at his flushed face just now, and my thoughts
flew back to the golden days of his boyhood, when he was all that a
noble, pure, generous nature could make him. I would ten thousand
times rather know that he was sleeping by my little sister's side in
the graveyard than see him disgrace himself!" Her voice faltered,
and she drooped her head to conceal the anguish which convulsed her
"Beulah, if he loves you still, you will not reject him?" cried
"He does not love me."
"Why will you evade me? Suppose that he does?"
"Then I tell you solemnly, not all Christendom could induce me to
"But to save him, Beulah! to save him!" replied Cornelia, clasping
her hands entreatingly.
"If a man's innate self-respect will not save him from habitual,
disgusting intoxication, all the female influence in the universe
would not avail. Man's will, like woman's, is stronger than his
affection, and, once subjugated by vice, all external influences
will be futile. If Eugene once sinks so low, neither you, nor I, nor
his wife--had he one--could reclaim him."
"He has deceived me! Fool that I was not to probe the mask!"
Cornelia started up and paced the floor with uncontrollable
"Take care how you accuse him rashly! I am not prepared to believe
that he could act dishonorably toward anyone. I will not believe
it." "Oh, you, too, will get your eyes open in due time! Ha! it is
all as clear as daylight! And I, with my boasted penetration!--it
maddens me!" Her eyes glittered like polished steel.
"Explain yourself; Eugene is above suspicion!" cried Beulah, with
pale, fluttering lips.
"Explain myself! Then understand that my honorable brother professed
to love you, and pretended that he expected to marry you, simply and
solely to blind me, in order to conceal the truth. I taxed him with
a preference for Antoinette Dupres, which I fancied his manner
evinced. He denied it most earnestly, protesting that he felt bound
to you. Now do you understand?" Her lips were white, and writhed
"Still you may misjudge him," returned Beulah haughtily.
"No, no! My mother has seen it all along. But, fool that I was, I
believed his words! Now, Beulah, if he marries Antoinette, you will
be amply revenged, or my name is not Cornelia Graham!" She laughed
bitterly, and, dropping some medicine from a vial, swallowed the
potion and resumed her walk up and down the floor.
"Revenged! What is it to me, that he should marry your cousin? If he
loves her, it is no business of mine, and certainly you have no
right to object. You are miserably deceived if you imagine that his
marriage would cause me an instant's regret. Think you I could love
a man whom I knew to be my inferior? Indeed, you know little of my
nature." She spoke with curling lips and a proud smile.
"You place an exalted estimate upon yourself," returned Cornelia.
They looked at each other half-defiantly for a moment; then the
heiress bowed her head, and said, in low, broken tones:
"Oh, Beulah, Beulah! child of poverty! would I could change places
"You are weak, Cornelia," answered Beulah gravely.
"In some respects, perhaps, I am; but you are bold to tell me so."
"Genuine friendship ignores all hesitancy in speaking the truth. You
sought me. I am very candid--perhaps blunt. If my honesty does not
suit you it is an easy matter to discontinue our intercourse. The
whole matter rests with you."
"You wish me to understand that you do not need my society--my
"Patronage implies dependence, which, in this instance, does not
exist. An earnest, self-reliant woman cannot be patronized, in the
sense in which you employ the term." She could not forbear smiling.
The thought of being under patronage was, to her, supremely
"You do not want my friendship, then?"
"I doubt whether you have any to bestow. You seem to have no love
for anything," replied Beulah coldly.
"Oh, you wrong me!" cried Cornelia passionately.
"If I do, it is your own fault. I only judge you from what you have
shown of your nature."
"Remember, I have been an invalid all my life."
"I am not likely to forget it in your presence. But, Cornelia, your
whole being seems embittered."
"Yes; and you will be just like me when you have lived as long as I
have. Wait till you have seen something of the world."
"Sit down, Cornelia; you tremble from head to foot." She drew a
chair close to the hearth, and the sufferer sank into it, as if
completely exhausted. For some time neither spoke. Beulah stood with
her hands on the back of the chair, wishing herself back in her
quiet little room. After a while Cornelia said slowly:
"If you only knew Antoinette as well as I do you could ill brook the
thought of her ever being Eugene's wife."
"He is the best judge of what will promote his happiness."
"No; he is blinded, infatuated. Her pretty face veils her miserable,
contemptible defects of character. She is utterly unworthy of him."
"If she loves him sincerely, she will--"
"Don't talk of what you do not understand. She is too selfish to
love anything or anybody but herself. Mark me, whether I live to see
it or not, if he marries her, he will despise her in less than six
months, and curse himself for his blind folly. Oh, what a precious
farce it will prove!" She laughed sneeringly.
"Cornelia, you are not able to bear this excitement. For the
present, let Eugene and his future rest and try to compose yourself.
You are so nervous you can scarcely sit still."
The colorless face, with its gleaming eyes, was suddenly lifted;
and, throwing her arms round Beulah's neck, Cornelia rested her
proud head on the orphan's shoulder.
"Be my friend while I live. Oh, give me some of your calm
contentment, some of your strength!"
"I am your friend, Cornelia; I will always be such; but every soul
must be sufficient for itself. Do not look to me; lean upon your own
nature; it will suffice for all its needs."
With the young teacher, pity was almost synonymous with contempt;
and, as she looked at the joyless face of her companion, she could
not avoid thinking her miserably weak.
Christmas Day was sunny and beautiful. The bending sky was as deeply
blue as that which hung over Bethlehem eighteen hundred years
before; God's coloring had not faded. Happy children prattled as
joyously as did the little Jew boys who clustered curiously about
the manger to gaze upon the holy babe, the sleeping Jesus. Human
nature had not altered one whit beneath the iron wheel of Time. Is
there a man so sunk in infamy or steeped in misanthropy that he has
not, at some period of his life, exclaimed, in view of earth's
"'This world is very lovely. O my God!
I thank Thee that I live.'"
Alas for the besotted soul who cannot bend the knee of humble
adoration before nature's altar, where sacrifices are offered to the
Jehovah, pavilioned in invisibility. There is an ardent love of
nature as far removed from gross materialism or subtle pantheism on
the one hand as from stupid inappreciation on the other. There is
such a thing as looking "through nature up to nature's God,"
notwithstanding the frightened denials of those who, shocked at the
growing materialism of the age, would fain persuade this generation
to walk blindfold through the superb temple a loving God has placed
us in. While every sane and earnest mind must turn, disgusted and
humiliated, from the senseless rant which resolves all divinity into
materialistic elements, it may safely be proclaimed that genuine
aesthetics is a mighty channel through which the love and adoration
of Almighty God enters the human soul. It were an insult to the
Creator to reject the influence which even the physical world exerts
on contemplative natures. From bald, hoary mountains, and somber,
solemn forests; from thundering waves and wayside violets; from
gorgeous sunset clouds, from quiet stars and whispering winds, come
unmistakable voices, hymning of the Eternal God--the God of Moses,
of Isaac, and of Jacob. Extremes meet in every age, and in every
department. Because one false philosophy would deify the universe,
startled opponents tell us to close our ears to these musical
utterances and shut our eyes to glorious nature, God's handiwork.
Oh! why has humanity so fierce a hatred of medium paths?
Ragged boys and barefooted girls tripped gayly along the streets,
merry and uncomplaining; and, surrounded by velvet, silver, and
marble, by every superfluity of luxury, Cornelia Graham, with a
bitter heart and hopeless soul, shivered in her easy-chair before a
glowing fire. The Christmas sunlight crept in through the heavy
crimson curtains and made gorgeous fret-work on the walls, but its
cheering radiance mocked the sickly pallor of the invalid, and, as
Beulah retreated to the window and peeped into the street, she felt
an intense longing to get out under the blue sky once more. Mr. and
Mrs. Graham and Antoinette sat round the hearth, discussing the
tableaux for the evening, while, with her cheek upon her hand,
Cornelia listlessly fingered a diamond necklace which her father had
just given her. The blazing jewels slipped through her pale fingers
all unnoticed, and she looked up abstractedly when Mr. Graham
touched her, and repeated his question for the third time.
"My child, won't you come down to the sitting room?"
"No, sir; I am better here."
"But you will be so lonely."
"Not with Beulah."
"But, of course, Miss Benton will desire to see the tableaux. You
would not keep her from them?" remonstrated her father.
"Thank you, Mr. Graham, I prefer remaining with Cornelia," answered
Beulah, who had no wish to mingle in the crowd which, she understood
from the conversation, would assemble that evening in the parlors.
The trio round the hearth looked at each other, and evidently
thought she manifested very heathenish taste. Cornelia smiled, and
leaned back with an expression of pleasure which very rarely lighted
"You are shockingly selfish and exacting," said Antoinette, curling
her long ringlets over her pretty fingers and looking very
bewitching. Her cousin eyed her in silence, and not particularly
relishing her daughter's keen look Mrs. Graham rose, kissed her
forehead, and said gently:
"My love, the Vincents, and Thorntons. and Hendersons all sent to
inquire after you this morning. Netta and I must go down now and
prepare for our tableaux. I leave you in good hands. Miss Benton is
considered an admirable nurse, I believe."
"Mother, where is Eugene?"
"I really do not know. Do you, Mr. Graham?"
"He has gone to the hotel to see some of his old Heidelberg
friends," answered Netta, examining Beulah's plain merino dress very
minutely as she spoke.
"When he comes home be good enough to tell him that I wish to see
"Very well, my dear." Mrs. Graham left the room, followed by her
husband and niece.
For some time Cornelia sat just as they left her; the diamond
necklace slipped down and lay a glittering heap on the carpet, and
the delicate waxen hands drooped listlessly over the arms of the
chair. Her profile was toward Beulah, who stood looking at the
regular, beautiful features, and wondering how (with so many
elements of happiness in her home) she could seem so discontented.
She was thinking, too, that there was a certain amount of truth in
that persecuted and ignored dictum, "A man only sees that which he
brings with him the power of seeing," when Cornelia raised herself,
and, turning her head to look for her companion, said slowly:
"Where are you? Do you believe in the Emersonian 'law of
compensation,' rigid and inevitable as fate? I say, Beulah, do you
"Yes; I believe it."
"Hand me the volume there on the table. His exposition of 'the
absolute balance of Give and Take, the doctrine that everything has
its price,' is the grandest triumph of his genius. For an hour this
sentence has been ringing in my ears: 'In the nature of the soul is
the compensation for the inequalities of condition.' We are samples
of the truth of this. Ah, Beulah, I have paid a heavy, heavy price!
You are destitute of one, it is true, but exempt from the other.
Yet, mark you, this law of 'compensation' pertains solely to earth
and its denizens; the very existence and operation of the law
precludes the necessity, and I may say the possibility, of that
future state, designed, as theologians argue, for rewards and
punishments." She watched her visitor very closely.
"Of course it nullifies the belief in future adjustments, for he
says emphatically, 'Justice is not postponed. A perfect equity
adjusts its balance in all parts of life.' 'What will you have? Pay
for it, and take it. Nothing venture, nothing have.' There is no
obscurity whatever in that remarkable essay on compensation." Beulah
took up one of the volumes, and turned the pages carelessly.
"But all this would shock a Christian."
"And deservedly; for Emerson's works, collectively and individually,
are aimed at the doctrines of Christianity. There is a grim,
terrible fatalism scowling on his pages which might well frighten
the reader who clasped the Bible to his heart."
"Yet you accept his 'compensation.' Are you prepared to receive his
deistic system?" Cornelia leaned forward and spoke eagerly. Beulah
"Why strive to cloak the truth? I should not term his fragmentary
system 'deistic.' He knows not yet what he believes. There are
singular antagonisms existing among even his pet theories."
"I have not found any," replied Cornelia, with a gesture of
"Then you have not studied his works as closely as I have done. In
one place he tells you he feels 'the eternity of man, the identity
of his thought,' that Plato's truth and Pindar's fire belong as much
to him as to the ancient Greeks, and on the opposite page, if I
remember aright, he says, 'Rare extravagant spirits come by us at
intervals, who disclose to us new facts in nature. I see that men of
God have, from time to time, walked among men, and made their
commission felt in the heart and soul of the commonest hearer.
Hence, evidently the tripod, the priest, the priestess, inspired by
the divine afflatus.' Thus at one moment he finds no 'antiquity in
the worships of Moses, of Zoroaster, of Menu, or Socrates; they are
as much his as theirs,' and at another clearly asserts that spirits
do come into the world to discover to us new truths. At some points
we are told that the cycles of time reproduce all things; at others,
this theory is denied. Again, in 'Self-Reliance,' he says,' Trust
thyself; insist on yourself; obey thy heart, and thou shalt
reproduce the foreworld again.' All this was very comforting to me,
Cornelia; self-reliance was the great secret of success and
happiness; but I chanced to read the 'Over-soul' soon after, and lo!
these words: 'I am constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher
origin for events than the will I call mine.' This was directly
antagonistic to the entire spirit of 'self-reliance'; but I read on,
and soon found the last sentence utterly nullified by one which
declared positively 'that the Highest dwells with man; the sources
of nature are in his own mind.' Sometimes we are informed that our
souls are self-existing and all-powerful; an incarnation of the
divine and universal, and, before we fairly digest this tremendous
statement, he coolly asserts that there is, above all, an 'over-
soul,' whose inevitable decrees upset our plans, and 'overpower
private will.' Cognizant of these palpable contradictions, Emerson
boldly avows and defends them, by declaring that 'A foolish
consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. With consistency a
great soul has simply nothing to do. Speak what you think now in
hard words; and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words
again, though it contradict everything you said to-day. Why should
you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of
your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or
that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself?' His
writings are, to me, like heaps of broken glass, beautiful in the
individual crystal, sparkling and often dazzling, but gather them up
and try to fit them into a whole, and the jagged edges refuse to
unite. Certainly, Cornelia, you are not an Emersonian." Her deep,
quiet eyes looked full into those of the invalid.
"Yes, I am. I believe in that fatalism which he shrouds under the
gauze of an 'Over-soul,'" replied Cornelia impressively.
"Then you are a fair sample of the fallacy of his system, if the
disjointed bits of logic deserve the name."
"He continually exhorts to a happy, contented, and uncomplaining
frame of mind; tells you sternly that 'Discontent is the want of
self-reliance; it is infirmity of will.'"
"You are disposed to be severe," muttered Cornelia, with an angry
"What? because I expect his professed disciple to obey his
"Do you, then, conform so irreproachably to your own creed? Pray,
what is it?"
"I have no creed. I am honestly and anxiously hunting one. For a
long time I thought that I had found a sound one in Emerson. But a
careful study of his writings taught me that of all Pyrrhonists he
is the prince. Can a creedless soul aid me in my search? Verily, no.
He exclaims, 'To fill the hour--that is happiness; to fill the hour,
and leave no crevice for repentance or an approval. We live amid
surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.' Now
this sort of oyster existence does not suit me, Cornelia Graham, nor
will it suit you."
"You do him injustice. He has a creed (true, it is pantheistic),
which he steadfastly adheres to under all circumstances."
"Oh, has he! indeed? Then he flatly contradicts you when he says,
'But lest I should mislead any, when I have my own head, and obey my
whims, let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do
not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what
I do not, as if I pretended to settle anything as true or false. I
unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane. I
simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no past at my back.' To
my fancy that savors strongly of nihilism, as regards creeds."
"There is no such passage in Emerson!" cried Cornelia, stamping one
foot, unconsciously, on her blazing necklace.
"Yes, the passage is, word for word, as I quoted it, and you will
find it in 'Circles.'"
"I have read 'Circles' several times, and do not remember it. At all
events, it does not sound like Emerson."
"For that matter, his own individual circle of ideas is so much like
St. Augustine's Circle, of which the center is everywhere and the
circumference nowhere,' that I am not prepared to say what may or
may not be found within it. You will ultimately think with me that,
though an earnest and profound thinker, your master is no Memnon,
waking only before the sunlight of truth. His utterances are dim and
She replaced the book on the table, and, taking up a small basket,
resumed her sewing.
"But, Beulah, did you not accept his 'Law of Compensation'?"
"I believe its operations are correct as regards mere social
position--wealth, penury, even the endowments of genius. But further
than this I do not accept it. I want to believe that my soul is
immortal. Emerson's 'Duration of the Attributes of the Soul' does
not satisfy me. I desire something more than an immutability, or
continued existence hereafter, in the form of an abstract idea of
truth, justice, love, or humility."
Cornelia looked at her steadily, and, after a pause, said with
indescribable bitterness and despair:
"If our past and present shadows the future, I hope that my last
sleep may be unbroken and eternal."
Beulah raised her head and glanced searchingly at her companion;
then silently went on with her work.
"I understand your honest face. You think I have no cause to talk
so. You see me surrounded by wealth,--petted, indulged in every
whim,--and you fancy that I am a very enviable woman; but--"
"There you entirely mistake me," interrupted Beulah, with a cold
"You think that I ought to be very happy and contented, and useful
in the sphere in which I move; and regard me, I know, as a weak
hypochondriac. Beulah, physicians told me, long ago, that I lived
upon the very brink of the grave; that I might die at any moment,
without warning. My grandmother and one of my uncles died suddenly
with this disease of the heart, and the shadow of death seems
continually around me; it will not be dispelled--it haunts me
forever. 'Boast not thyself of to-morrow,' said the preacher; but I
cannot even boast of to-day, or this hour. The world knows nothing
of this; it has been carefully concealed by my parents; but I know
it! and, Beulah, I feel as did that miserable, doomed prisoner of
Poe's 'Pit and Pendulum,' who saw the pendulum, slowly but surely,
sweeping down upon him. My life has been a great unfulfilled
promise. With what are generally considered elements of happiness in
my home, I have always been solitary and unsatisfied. Conscious of
my feeble tenure on life, I early set out to anchor myself in a calm
faith which would secure me a happy lot in eternity. My nature was
strongly religious, and I longed to find hope and consolation in
some of our churches. My parents always had a pew in the fashionable
church in this city. You need not smile--I speak advisedly when I
say 'fashionable' church; for, assuredly, fashion has crept into
religion also, nowadays. From my childhood I was regularly dressed
and taken to church; but I soon began to question the sincerity of
the pastor and the consistency of the members. Sunday after Sunday I
saw them in their pews, and week after week listened to their
gossiping, slanderous chit-chat. Prominent members busied themselves
about charitable associations, and headed subscription lists, and
all the while set examples of frivolity, heartlessness, and what is
softly termed 'fashionable excesses,' which shocked my ideas of
Christian propriety and disgusted me with the mockery their lives
presented. I watched the minister in his social relations, and,
instead of reverencing him as a meek and holy man of God, I could
not forbear looking with utter contempt upon his pompous, self-
sufficient demeanor toward the mass of his flock; while to the most
opulent and influential members he bowed down, with a servile,
fawning sycophancy absolutely disgusting. I attended various
churches, listening to sermons, and watching the conduct of the
prominent professing Christians of each. Many gave most liberally to
so-called religious causes and institutions, and made amends by
heavily draining the purses of widows and orphans. Some affected an
ascetical simplicity of dress, and yet hugged their purses where
their Bibles should have been. It was all Mammon worship; some
grossly palpable, some adroitly cloaked under solemn faces and
severe observance of the outward ceremonials. The clergy, as a
class, I found strangely unlike what I had expected. Instead of
earnest zeal for the promotion of Christianity, I saw that the
majority were bent only on the aggrandizement of their particular
denomination. Verily, I thought in my heart, 'Is all this bickering
the result of their religion? How these churches do hate each
other!' According to each, salvation could only be found in their
special tenets--within the pale of their peculiar organization; and
yet, all professed to draw their doctrines from the same book; and,
Beulah, the end of my search was that I scorned all creeds and
churches, and began to find a faith outside of a revelation which
gave rise to so much narrow-minded bigotry--so much pharisaism and
delusion. Those who call themselves ministers of the Christian
religion should look well to their commissions, and beware how they
go out into the world, unless the seal of Jesus be indeed upon their
brows. They offer themselves as the Pharos of the people, but ah!
they sometimes wreck immortal souls by their unpardonable
inconsistencies. For the last two years I have been groping my way
after some system upon which I could rest the little time I have to
live. Oh, I am heartsick and despairing!"
"What? already! Take courage, Cornelia; there is truth somewhere,"
answered Beulah, with kindling eyes.
"Where, where? Ah! that echo mocks you, turn which way you will. I
sit like Raphael-Aben-Ezra--at the 'Bottom of the Abyss,' but,
unlike him, I am no Democritus to jest over my position. I am too
miserable to laugh, and my grim Emersonian fatalism gives me
precious little comfort, though it is about the only thing that I do
firmly believe in."
She stooped to pick up her necklace, shook it in the glow of the
fire until a shower of rainbow hues flashed out, and, holding it up,
"What do you suppose this piece of extravagance cost?"
"I have no idea."
"Why, fifteen hundred dollars--that is all! Oh, what is the blaze of
diamonds to a soul like mine, shrouded in despairing darkness, and
hovering upon the very confines of eternity, if there be any!" She
threw the costly gift on the table and wearily closed her eyes.
"You have become discouraged too soon, Cornelia. Your very anxiety
to discover truth evinces its existence, for Nature always supplies
the wants she creates!"
"You will tell me that this truth is to be found down in the depths
of my own soul; for, no more than logic, has it ever been discovered
'parceled and labeled.' But how do I know that all truth is not
merely subjective? Ages ago, skepticism intrenched itself in an
impregnable fortress: 'There is no criterion of truth.' How do I
know that my 'true,' 'good,' and 'beautiful' are absolutely so? My
reason is no infallible plummet to sound the sea of phenomena and
touch noumena. I tell you, Beulah, it is all--"
A hasty rap at the door cut short this discussion, and, as Eugene
entered, the cloud on Cornelia's brow instantly lifted. His gay
Christmas greeting and sunny, handsome face diverted her mind, and,
as her hand rested on his arm, her countenance evinced a degree of
intense love such as Beulah had supposed her incapable of feeling.
"It is very selfish, sister mine, to keep Beulah so constantly
beside you, when we all want to see something of her."
"Was I ever anything else but selfish?"
"But I thought you prided yourself on requiring no society?"
"So I do, as regards society in general; but Beulah is an
"You intend to come down to-night, do you not?"
"Not if I can avoid it. Eugene, take Beulah into the parlor, and ask
Antoinette to sing. Afterward make Beulah sing, also, and be sure to
leave all the doors open, so that I can hear. Mind, you must not
detain her long."
Beulah would have demurred, but at this moment she saw Dr.
Hartwell's buggy approaching the house. Her heart seemed to spring
to her lips, and, feeling that after their last unsatisfactory
interview she was in no mood to meet him, she quickly descended the
steps, so blinded by haste that she failed to perceive the hand
Eugene extended to assist her. The door-bell uttered a sharp peal as
they reached the hall, and she had just time to escape into the
parlor when the doctor was ushered in.
"What is the matter?" asked Eugene, observing the nervous flutter of
"Ask Miss Dupres to sing, will you?"
He looked at her curiously an instant, then turned away and
persuaded the little beauty to sing.
She took her seat, and ran her jeweled fingers over the pearl keys
with an air which very clearly denoted her opinion, of her musical
"Well, sir, what will you have?"
"That favorite morceau from 'Linda.'"
"You have never heard it, I suppose," said she, glancing over her
shoulder at the young teacher.
"Yes; I have heard it," answered Beulah, who could with difficulty
repress a smile.
Antoinette half shrugged her shoulders, as if she thought the
statement questionable, and began the song. Beulah listened
attentively; she was conscious of feeling more than ordinary
interest in this performance, and almost held her breath as the
clear, silvery voice caroled through the most intricate passages.
Antoinette had been thoroughly trained, and certainly her voice was
remarkably sweet and flexible; but as she concluded the piece and
fixed her eyes complacently on Beulah, the latter lifted her head in
proud consciousness of superiority.
"Sing me something else," said she.
Antoinette bit her lips, and answered ungraciously:
"No; I shall have to sing to-night, and can't wear myself out."
"Now, Beulah, I shall hear you. I have sought an opportunity ever
since I returned." Eugene spoke rather carelessly.
"Do you really wish to hear me, Eugene?"
"Of course I do," said he, with some surprise.
"And so do I," added Mrs. Graham, leaning against the piano, and
exchanging glances with Antoinette.
Beulah looked up, and asked quietly:
"Eugene, shall I sing you a ballad? One of those simple old tunes we
used to love so well in days gone by."
"No, no. Something operatic!" cried Antoinette, without giving him
an opportunity to reply.
"Well, then, Miss Dupres; select something."
"Can't you favor us with 'Casta-Diva'?" returned the beauty,--with
something very like a sneer.
Beulah's eyes gave a momentary flash; but by a powerful effort she
curbed her anger and commenced the song.
It was amusing to mark the expression of utter astonishment which
gradually overspread Antoinette's face, as the magnificent voice of
her despised rival swelled in waves of entrancing melody through the
lofty rooms. Eugene looked quite as much amazed. Beulah felt her
triumph, and heartily enjoyed it. There was a sparkle in her eye and
a proud smile on her lip, which she did not attempt to conceal. As
she rose from the piano, Eugene caught her hand, and said eagerly:
"I never dreamed of your possessing such a voice. It is superb--
perfectly magnificent! Why did not you tell me of it before?"
"You heard it long ago, in the olden time," said she, withdrawing
her hand and looking steadily at him.
"Ah, but it has improved incredibly. You were all untutored then."
"It is the culture, then, not the voice itself? Eh, Eugene?"
"It is both. Who taught you?"
"I had several teachers, but owe what excellence I may possess to my
guardian. He aided me more than all the instruction books that ever
"You must come and practice with the musical people who meet here
very frequently," said Mrs. Graham.
"Thank you, madam; I have other engagements which will prevent my
"Nonsense, Beulah; we have claims on you. I certainly have,"
"Have you? I was not aware of the fact."
There was a patronizing manner in all this which she felt no
disposition to submit to.
"Most assuredly I have, Beulah; and mean to maintain them."
She perfectly understand the haughty expression of his countenance,
and, moving toward the door, replied coldly:
"Another time, Eugene, we will discuss them."
"Where are you going?" inquired Mrs. Graham rather stiffly.
"To Cornelia. The doctor came down a few minutes since."
She did not pause to hear what followed, but ran up the steps,
longing to get out of a house where she plainly perceived her
presence was by no means desired. Cornelia sat with her head drooped
on her thin hand, and, without looking up, said, more gently than
was her custom:
"Why did you hurry back so soon?"
"Because the parlor was not particularly attractive."
There came the first good-humored laugh which Beulah had ever heard
from Cornelia's lips, as the latter replied:
"What friends you and old growling Diogenes would have been! Pray,
how did my cousin receive your performance!"
"Very much as if she wished me amid the ruins of Persepolis, where I
certainly shall be before I inflict anything more upon her.
Cornelia, do not ask or expect me to come here again, for I will
not; of course, it is quite as palpable to you as to me that I am no
favorite with your parents, and something still less with your
cousin. Consequently, you need not expect to see me here again."
"Do not say so, Beulah; you must, you shall come, and I will see
that no one dares interfere with my wishes. As for Antoinette, she
is simply a vain idiot; you might just as well be told the truth,
for doubtless you will see it for yourself. She is my mother's
niece, an only child, and possessed of considerable wealth. I
suppose it is rather natural that my parents should fondle the idea
of her being Eugene's wife. They do not see how utterly unsuited
they are. Eugene will, of course, inherit the fortune which I once
imagined I should have the pleasure of squandering. My father and
mother dread lest Eugene should return to his 'boyish fancy' (as you
are pleased to term it), and look on you with jealous eyes. Oh,
Mammon is the God of this generation. But, Beulah, you must not
allow all this miserable maneuvering to keep you from me. If you do,
I will very soon succeed in making this home of mine very unpleasant
for Antoinette Dupres. When I am dead she can wheedle my family as
successfully as they choose to permit; but while I do live she shall
forbear. Poor, contemptible human nature! Verily, I rejoice
sometimes when I remember that I shall not be burdened with any of
it long." An angry spot burned on each pallid cheek, and the
beautiful mouth curled scornfully.
"Do not excite yourself so unnecessarily, Cornelia. What you may or
may not think of your relatives is no concern of mine. You have a
carriage always at your command, and when you desire to see a real
friend, you can visit me. Let this suffice for this subject. Suppose
we have a game of chess or backgammon? What do you say?"
She wheeled a light table toward the hearth; but the invalid
motioned it away, and answered moodily:
"I am in no humor for games. Sit down and tell me about your leaving
Dr. Hartwell's protection."
"I have nothing to tell."
"He is a singular being?"
Receiving no answer, she added impatiently:
"Don't you think so?"
"I do, in the sense of great superiority."
"The world is not so flattering in its estimate."
"No; for slander loves a lofty mark."
"Beulah Benton, do you mean that for me?"
"Not unless you feel that it applies to you particularly."
"If he is so faultless and unequaled, pray, why did not you remain
in his house?"
"I am not in the habit of accounting to anyone for my motives or my
actions." She lifted her slender form haughtily.
"In which case the public has a habit of supplying both."
"Then accept its fabrications."
"You need not be so fierce. I like Dr. Hartwell quite as well as you
do, I dare say; but probably I know more of his history."
"It is all immaterial to me. Drop the subject, if you please, and
let me read to you. I believe I came here for quiet companionship,
not recrimination and cross-questioning."
"Beulah, the world says you are to marry your guardian. I do not ask
from impertinent curiosity, but sincere friendship--is it true?"
"About as true as your notion of my marriage with Eugene. No;
scarcely so plausible."
"Our families were connected, you know."
"No; I neither know, nor wish to know. He never alluded to his wife,
or his history, and I have just now no desire to hear anything about
the matter. He is the best friend I ever had; I want to honor and
reverence him always; and, of course, the world's version of his
domestic affairs does him injustice. So be good enough to say no
more about him."
"Very well. On hearing your voice from the parlor he left a small
parcel, which he requested me to give you. He laid it on the table,
I believe; yes, there it is. Now read 'Egmont' to me, if you
Cornelia crossed the room, threw herself on a couch, and settled her
pillow comfortably. Beulah took the parcel, which was carefully
sealed, and wondered what it contained. It was heavy and felt hard.
They had parted in anger; what could it possibly be? Cornelia's
black eyes were on her countenance. She put the package in her
pocket, seated herself by the couch, and commenced "Egmont." It was
with a feeling of indescribable relief that the orphan awoke, at
dawn the following morning, and dressed by the gray twilight. She
had fallen asleep the night before amid the hum of voices, of
laughter, and of dancing feet. Sounds of gayety, from the merry
party below, had found their way to the chamber of the heiress, and
when Beulah left her at midnight she was still wakeful and restless.
The young teacher could not wait for the late breakfast of the
luxurious Grahams, and, just as the first level ray of sunshine
flashed up from the east, she tied on her bonnet and noiselessly
entered Cornelia's room. The heavy curtains kept it close and dark,
and on the hearth a taper burned with pale, sickly light. Cornelia
slept soundly; but her breathing was heavy and irregular, and the
face wore a scowl, as if some severe pain had distorted it. The
ivory-like arms were thrown up over the head, and large drops
glistened on the wan brow. Beulah stood beside the bed a few
minutes; the apartment was furnished with almost Oriental splendor;
but how all this satin, and rosewood, and silver, and marble mocked
the restless, suffering sleeper! Beulah felt tears of compassion
weighing down her lashes, as she watched the haggard countenance of
this petted child of fortune; but, unwilling to rouse her, she
silently stole down the steps. The hall was dark; the smell of gas
almost stifling. Of course, the servants followed the example of
their owners, and, as no one appeared, she unlocked the street door,
and walked homeward with a sensation of pleasurable relief which
impressed itself very legibly on her face. The sky was cloudless;
the early risen run looked over the earth in dazzling radiance; and
the cold, pure, wintry air made the blood tingle in Beulah's veins.
A great, unspeakable joy filled her soul; the uplifted eyes beamed
with gladness; her brave, hopeful spirit looked into the future with
unquestioning trust; and, as the image of her unhappy friend flitted
across her mind, she exclaimed:
"This world is lull of beauty, like other worlds above, And if we
did our duty, it might be full of loe."
She ran up to her room, threw open the blinds, looped back the
curtains, and drew that mysterious package from her pocket. She was
very curious to see the contents, and broke the seal with trembling
fingers. The outer wrappings fell off, and disclosed an oblong,
papier-mache case. It opened with a spring, and revealed to her a
beautiful watch and chain, bearing her name in delicate tracery. A
folded slip of paper lay on the crimson velvet lining of the box,
and, recognizing the characters, she hastily read this brief
"Wear it constantly, Beulah, to remind you that, in adversity, you
Tears gushed unrestrained, as she looked at the beautiful gift. Not
for an instant did she dream, of accepting it, and she shrank
shudderingly from widening the breach which already existed by a
refusal. Locking up the slip of paper in her workbox, she returned
the watch to its case and carefully retied the parcel. Long before
she had wrapped the purse in paper and prevailed on Clara to give it
to the doctor. He had received it without comment; but she could not
return the watch in the same way, for Clara was now able to attend
regularly to her school duties, and it was very uncertain when she
would see him. Yet she felt comforted, for this gift assured her
that, however coldly he chose to treat her when they met, he had not
thrown her off entirely. With all her independence, she could not
bear the thought of his utter alienation; and the consciousness of
his remaining interest thrilled her heart with gladness.
One Saturday morning, some days subsequent to her visit to the
Grahams, Beulah set off for the business part of the city. She was
closely veiled, and carried under her shawl a thick roll of neatly
written paper. A publishing house was the place of her destination;
and, as she was ushered into a small back room, to await the leisure
of the gentleman she wished to see, she could not forbear smiling at
the novelty of her position and the audacity of the attempt she was
about to make. There she sat in the editor's sanctum, trying to
quiet the tumultuous beating of her heart. Presently a tall, spare
man, with thin, cadaverous visage, entered, bowed, took a chair, and
eyed her with a "what-do-you-want" sort of expression. His grizzled
hair was cut short, and stood up like bristles, and his keen blue
eyes were by no means promising, in their cold glitter. Beulah threw
off her veil and said, with rather an unsteady voice:
"You are the editor of the magazine published here, I believe?"
He bowed again, leaned back in his chair, and crossed his hands at
the back of his head.
"I came to offer you an article for the magazine." She threw down
the roll of paper on a chair.
"Ah!--hem!--will you favor me with your name?"
"Beulah Benton, sir. One altogether unknown to fame."
He contracted his eyes, coughed, and said constrainedly:
"Are you a subscriber?"
"What is the character of your manuscript?" He took it up as he
spoke, and glanced over the pages.
"You can determine that from a perusal. If the sketch suits you, I
should like to become a regular contributor."
A gleam of sunshine strayed over the countenance, and the editor
answered, very benignly:
"If the article meets with our approbation, we shall be very happy
to afford you a medium of publication in our journal. Can we depend
on your punctuality?"
"I think so. What are your terms?"
"Terms, madam? I supposed that your contribution was gratuitous,"
said he very loftily.
"Then you are most egregiously mistaken! What do you imagine induces
me to write?"
"Why, desire for fame, I suppose."
"Fame is rather unsatisfactory fare. I am poor, sir, and write to
aid me in maintaining myself."
"Are you dependent solely on your own exertions, madam?"
"I am sorry I cannot aid you; but nowadays there are plenty of
authors who write merely as a pastime, and we have as many
contributions as we can well look over."
"I am to understand, then, that the magazine is supported altogether
by gratuitous contributions?" said Beulah, unable to repress a
"Why, you see, authorship has become a sort of luxury," was the
"I think the last number of your magazine contained, among other
articles in the 'Editor's Drawer,' an earnest appeal to Southern
authors to come to the rescue of Southern periodicals?"
"True, madam. Southern intellect seems steeped in a lethargy from
which we are most faithfully endeavoring to arouse it."
"The article to which I allude also animadverted severely upon the
practice of Southern authors patronizing Northern publishing
"Most certainly it treated the subject stringently." He moved
"I believe the subscription is the same as that of the Northern
A very cold bow was the only answer.
"I happen to know that Northern magazines are not composed of
gratuitous contributions; and it is no mystery why Southern authors
are driven to Northern publishers. Southern periodicals are mediums
only for those of elegant leisure, who can afford to write without
remuneration. With the same subscription price, you cannot pay for
your articles. It is no marvel that, under such circumstances, we
have no Southern literature. Unluckily, I belong to the numerous
class who have to look away from home for remuneration. Sir, I will
not trouble you with my manuscript." Rising, she held out her hand
for it; but the keen eyes had fallen upon a paragraph which seemed
to interest the editor, and, knitting his brows, he said
"We have not been in the habit of paying for our articles; but I
will look over this, and perhaps you can make it worth our while to
pay you. The fact is, madam, we have more trash sent us than we can
find room for; but if you can contribute anything of weight, why, it
will make a difference, of course. I did not recognize you at first,
but I now remember that I heard your valedictory to the graduating
class of the public schools. If we should conclude to pay you for
regular contributions, we wish nothing said about it."
"Very well. If you like the manuscript, and decide to pay me, you
can address me a note through the post office. Should I write for
the magazine I particularly desire not to be known." She lowered her
veil, and most politely he bowed her out.
She was accustomed to spend a portion of each Saturday in practicing
duets with Georgia Asbury, and thither she now directed her steps.
Unluckily, the parlor was full of visitors, and, without seeing any
of the family, she walked back into the music room. Here she felt
perfectly at home, and, closing the door, forgot everything but her
music. Taking no heed of the lapse of time, she played piece after
piece, until startled by the clear tones of the doctor's voice. She
looked up, and saw him standing in the door which opened into the
library, taking off his greatcoat.
"Why Beulah, that room is as cold as a Texas norther! What on earth
are you doing there without a fire? Come in here, child, and warm
your frozen digits. Where are those two harum-scarum specimens of
"I believe they are still entertaining company, sir. The parlor was
full when I came, and they know nothing of my being here." She sat
down by the bright fire, and held her stiff fingers toward the
"Yes, confound their dear rattlepates; that is about the sum-total
of their cogitations." He drew up his chair, put his feet on the
fender of the grate, and, lighting his cigar, added:
"Is my spouse also in the parlor?"
"I suppose so, sir."
"Time was, Beulah, when Saturday was the great day of preparation
for all housekeepers. Bless my soul! My mother would just about as
soon have thought of anticipating the discovery of the open Polar
Sea, by a trip thither, as going out to visit on Saturday. Why, from
my boyhood, Saturday has been synonymous with scouring, window
washing, pastry baking, stocking darning, and numerous other
venerable customs, which this age is rapidly dispensing with. My
wife had a lingering reverence for the duties of the day, and tried
to excuse herself, but I suppose those pretty wax dolls of mine have
coaxed her into 'receiving,' as they call it. Beulah, my wife is an
exception; but the mass of married women nowadays, instead of being
thorough housewives (as nature intended they should), are delicate,
do-nothing, know-nothing, fine ladies. They have no duties. 'O
tempora, O mores!'" He paused to relight his cigar, and, just then,
Georgia came in, dressed very richly. He tossed the taper into the
grate, and exclaimed, as she threw her arms round his neck and
"You pretty imp; what is to pay now? Here Beulah has been sitting,
nobody knows how long, in that frigid zone you call your music room.
What are you rigged out in all that finery for?"
"We are going to dine out to-day, father. Beulah will excuse me, I
"Indeed! Dine where?"
"Mrs. Delmont came round this morning to invite us to dine with some
of her young friends from New Orleans."
"Well, I shan't go, that is all."
"Oh, you are not expected, sir," laughed Georgia, brushing the gray
locks from his ample forehead.
"Not expected, eh? Does your lady mother contemplate leaving me to
discuss my dinner in doleful solitude?"
"No, mother has gone with Mrs. Rallston to see about some poor,
starving family in the suburbs. She will be back soon, I dare say.
Mrs. Delmont has sent her carriage, and Helen is waiting for me; so
I must go. Beulah, I am very sorry, we have been cut out of our
practicing. Don't go home; stay with mother to-day, and when I come
back we will have a glorious time. Can't you now? There's a
"Oh, you wheedling, hypocritical madcap, take yourself off! Of
course Beulah will try to endure the stupid talk of a poor old man,
whose daughters are too fashionable to look after him, and whose
wife is so extremely charitable that she forgets it 'begins at
home.' Clear out, you trial of paternal patience!" He kissed her
rosy lips, and she hurried away, protesting that she would much
prefer remaining at home.
"Beulah, I gave Hartwell that parcel you intrusted to me. He looked
just as if I had plunged him into a snow-bank, but said nothing."
"Thank you, sir."
"Oh, don't thank me for playing go-between. I don't relish any such
work. It is very evident that you two have quarreled. I would about
as soon consult that poker as ask Hartwell what is to pay. Now,
child, what is the matter?"
"Nothing new, sir. He has never forgiven me for turning teacher."
"Forgiven! Bless me, he is as spiteful as a Pequod!"
"Begging your pardon, Dr. Asbury, he is no such thing!" cried Beulah
"Just what I might have expected. I am to understand, then, that you
can abuse my partner sufficiently without any vituperative
assistance from me?" He brushed the ashes from his cigar, and looked
at her quizzically.
"Sir, it pains me to hear him spoken of so lightly."
"Lightly! Upon my word, I thought Indianic malice was rather a heavy
charge. However, I can succeed better if you will allow--"
"Don't jest, sir. Please say no more about him."
His face became instantly grave, and he answered earnestly:
"Beulah, as a sincere friend, I would advise you not to alienate
Hartwell. There are very few such men; I do not know his equal. He
is interested in your welfare and happiness, and is the best friend
you ever had or ever will have."
"I know it, and prize his friendship above all others."
"Then why did you return that watch? If he wished you to wear it,
why should you refuse? Mark me, he said nothing about it to me; but
I saw the watch, with your name engraved on the case, at the jewelry
store where I bought one just like it for Georgia. I surmised it was
that same watch, when you intrusted the package to me."
"I was already greatly indebted to him, and did not wish to increase
"My child, under the circumstances, you were too fastidious. He was
very much annoyed; though, as I told you before, he made no allusion
to the subject."
"Yes; I knew he would be, and I am very sorry, but could not think
of accepting it."
"Oh, you are well matched, upon my word!"
"What do you mean?"
"That you are both as proud as Lucifer and as savage as heathens.
Child, I don't see what is to become of you."
"Every soul is the star of its own destiny," answered Beulah.
"Well, very sorry destinies the majority make, I can tell you. Have
you seen Mrs. Lockhart and Pauline?"
"No. I was not aware that they were in the city."
"Lockhart's health is miserable. They are all at Hartwell's for a
few weeks, I believe. Pauline has grown up a perfect Di Vernon
"I should like very much to see her. She is a generous, noble-souled
"Yes; I rather think she is. Hartwell said the other day that
Pauline was anxious to see you; and, since I think of it, I believe
he asked me to tell you of her arrival. Now, I will wager my head
that you intend to wait until she calls formally, which it is your
place to do."
"Then, sir, expect immediate decapitation, for I shall go out to see
her this very afternoon," replied Beulah.
"That is right, my dear child."
"Dr. Asbury, if you will not think me troublesome, I should like to
tell you of some things that perplex me very much," said she
"I shall be glad to hear whatever you have to say, and if I can
possibly help you, rest assured I will. What perplexes you?"
"A great many things, sir. Of late, I have read several works that
have unsettled my former faith, and, indeed, confused and darkened
my mind most miserably, and I thought you might aid me in my search
He threw his cigar into the fire, and, while an expression of sorrow
clouded his face, said, very gravely:
"Beulah, I am afraid I am one of the last persons to whom you should
apply for assistance. Do the perplexities to which you allude
involve religious questions?"
"Yes, sir; almost entirely."
"I am too unsettled myself to presume to direct others."
Beulah looked up in unfeigned astonishment.
"You certainly are not what is termed skeptical?"
"Most sincerely do I wish that I was not."
There was a short silence, broken by Beulah's saying, slowly and
"You cannot aid me, then!"
"I am afraid not. When a young man I was thoroughly skeptical in my
religious views (if I may be said to have had any). At the time of
my marriage I was an infidel, and such the world still calls me. If
I am not now, it is because my wife's unpretending consistent piety
has taught me to revere the precepts of a revelation which I long
ago rejected. Her pure religion makes me respect Christianity, which
once I sneered at. I am forced to acknowledge the happy results of
her faith, and I may yet be brought to yield up old prejudices and
confess its divine origin. I am no atheist, thank God! never have
been. But I tell you candidly, my doubts concerning the Bible make
me an unsafe guide for a mind like yours. For some time I have
marked the course of your reading, by the books I missed from my
shelves, and have feared just what has happened. On one point my
experience may be of value to you. What is comprised under the head
of philosophical research will never aid or satisfy you. I am an old
man, Beulah, and have studied philosophic works for many years; but,
take my word for it, the mass of them are sheer humbug. From the
beginning of the world philosophers have been investigating the
countless mysteries which present themselves to every earnest mind;
but the arcana are as inscrutable now as ever. I do not wish to
discourage you, Beulah; nor do I desire to underrate human
capabilities; but, in all candor, this kind of study does not pay.
It has not repaid me--it has not satisfied Hartwell, who went deeper
into metaphysics than anyone I know, and who now has less belief of
any sort than anyone I ever wish to know. I would not advise you to
prosecute this branch of study. I am content to acknowledge that of
many things I know nothing, and never can be any wiser; but Guy
Hartwell is too proud to admit his incapacity to grapple with some
of these mysteries. Beulah, my wife is one of the happiest spirits I
ever knew; she is a consistent Christian. When we were married, I
watched her very closely. I tell you, child, I hoped very much that
I should find some glaring incongruity in her conduct which would
have sanctioned my skepticism. I was continually on the lookout for
defects of character that might cast contempt on the religion she
professed. I did not expect her to prove so pure-hearted,
unselfish, humble, and genuinely pious as I found her. I do most
sincerely revere such religion as hers. Ah! if it were not so rare I
should never have been so skeptical. She has taught me that the
precepts of the Bible do regulate the heart and purify the life; and
to you, child, I will say, candidly, 'Almost she has persuaded me to
be a Christian.' Whatever of--"
He said no more, for at this moment the door opened, and Mrs. Asbury
entered. She welcomed Beulah with a cordial sincerity, singularly
soothing to the orphan's heart, and, keeping her hand in a tight
clasp, asked several questions, which her husband cut short by
drawing her to his side.
"Where have you been straying to, madam?"
"Where you must stray to, sir, just as soon as you start out this
evening on your round of visits."
She softly smoothed back his hair and kissed his forehead. She was a
noble-looking woman, with a tranquil countenance that betokened a
serene, cloudless soul; and as she stood beside her husband, his
eyes rested on her face with an expression bordering on adoration.
Beulah could not avoid wondering why such women were so very rare,
and the thought presented itself with painful force, "If Cornelia
Graham and I had had such mothers, we might both have been happier
and better." Probably something of what crossed her mind crept into
her countenance, for the doctor asked laughingly:
"In the name of Venus! what are you screwing up your lips and
looking so ugly about?"
"I suppose one reason is that I must go home." She rose, with a
"I am disposed to think it much more probable that you were envying
me my wife. Come, confess."
"I was wishing that I had such a mother."
With some sudden impulse she threw her arms round Mrs. Asbury's
neck, and hid her face on her shoulder.
"Then let me be your mother, my dear child," said she, pressing the
girl affectionately to her heart and kissing her pale cheek.
"Are you troubled about anything, my dear?" continued Mrs. Asbury,
surprised at this manifestation of feeling in one usually so cold
"An orphan heart mourns its dead idols," answered Beulah, raising
her hand and withdrawing from the kind arm that encircled her. Mrs.
Asbury interpreted a quick glance from her husband, and did not
press the matter further; but, at parting, she accompanied Beulah to
the front door, and earnestly assured her that if she could in any
way advise or assist her she would consider it both a privilege and
a pleasure to do so. Returning to the library, she laid her soft
hand on her husband's arm, and said anxiously:
"George, what is the matter with her?"
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